Big Thief

by Will Jones

Photo credit: Shervin Lainez.

Hot on the heels of last year’s debut, Masterpiece, Brooklyn fourpiece Big Thief returned earlier this year with their second album Capacity.

The band - Adrianne Lenker (guitar, vocals), Buck Meek (guitar), Max Oleartchik (bass), and James Krivchenia (drums) – began recording their new record a mere seven months after finishing their debut effort, and many of the lyrical subjects found on Masterpiece are again in evidence on the new record, drawing on themes such as gender identity, abuse, sexuality, and the opposing, often unacknowledged and unspoken, forces we are all harbour inside ourselves.

The new album is comprised primarily of hushed acoustic songs that allow Lenker’s words to nestle on top of the melody. If the primarily mid tempo music is delicate, doing so affords both lightness and space for the vocals to come to fore. The effect is a disarming one: the sonic intimacy is a pleasant front for the pain and sensitivity that is being expressed.

Yet soft acoustic guitars and gentle piano are not the sole tonal offering on the record; walls of layered sound - comprised of lightly overdriven and delay-laden guitars – give scope for an immersive and varied live sonic performance. There is, however, a distinct sense that the instrumentation is a vessel for the main focus for the band: Lenker’s lyrics. The singer explained that “there is a darker darkness and a lighter light on this album”, and, undoubtedly, the songs are at once haunting and cathartic, stories with characters evocatively envisaged through an emotional mix of pain, desire, and love.

Whilst fans of pared back and modernised folk will be drawn in by the music, the gravitas of the lyrics makes for an often challenging and moving experience that rewards the audience’s openness that is present in Capacity’s tender music. You can catch Big Thief live next month on their nine date UK tour at the Thekla in Bristol on 1 November.